I don’t live in Southern Tel Aviv. I haven’t witnessed or heard personal stories about recent local violence associated with Sudanese and other African refugees/migrants who have made their way to Israel. So in that sense, it’s not a personal thing for me.
What becomes quite personal though, are the facts and stories behind how a lot of these men, women and children get to the border of Israel at the risk of everything. Where they’ve come from. Displacement, pain, threats, poverty, torture, rape, loss.
The biggest thing is the displacement. The homelessness. The fact that it seems worthwhile to risk everything in every step of the way to make it to the Israeli border and get in. Knowing that once you cross that border, you won’t be shot on demand. You have a chance to live through the next 15 minutes, the next hour, the next day, the next year.
Yes, it’s complicated. Israel is a tiny country. Absorbing half a million African refugees – with more inevitably on the way – is just not practical. The Israeli government needs to work with global partners to figure out what should be done with these displaced people.
Doesn’t that sound hauntingly familiar?
How dare ANY Jew ANYwhere make a hateful, inciteful, racist, unwelcome remark about a refugee from death, destruction, squalor and terror?
How dare we make life any more miserable for these Displaced Persons in our midst?
How dare we forget what we looked like – penniless, starving, sick, lifeless – only 70 years ago?
There is no excuse for the disgusting comments that have come from government officials’ mouths in recent weeks. Again, it sounds hauntingly familiar. The government should be working constructively with the global community to find a resolution to this refugee crisis.
We, on the ground, can also start at being merely kind to a demographic that could use some kindness.
For most of us in Israel, it’s probably not a close-to-home issue; I’m also one of those living way outside Tel Aviv and a lot of the other cities affected by incoming refugee populations. I do think at the very least, we can practice understanding and kindness as best we can. And if even that’s too hard, doing some introspection to understand why one is unable to curb racist, hypocritical sentiment in the face of familiar territory might be a good start.
For those among us who want to help on the ground – meaningful ways that might make this transitional period of the refugees’ lives that much easier – I’ve added updated info below.
Consider the idea that you might have a life skill or service to impart – learning to speak or read English, teaching some kind of trade, babysitting and playing with the children of refugees, etc.
In order to help reduce the immediate and daily trials and tribulations of many of the refugees and asylum seekers, we collect food donations (closed packages only) at our offices.
Food donations can be brought to the office any day from Sunday through Thursday, from 11:00 AM to 16:00 PM.
The Refugee Voice
A grassroots newspaper created and run by African asylum seekers along with Israelis in Israel.
Refugee Right Clinic
Legal clinic run by lawyers and students from Tel Aviv University, providing “free legal aid to dozens of asylum seekers and refugees every year in a variety of issues. In addition, the Clinic advocates the implementation of a fair asylum policy in Israel.”
Contact Adv. Anat Ben-Dor: +972-54-8255264
If you know of others, please leave them in the comments. If you feel strongly about this issue, whichever way you lean, go ahead and leave your perspective in the comments, too. I think it’s important we actively discuss it across the country and worldwide. This is not just an Israeli issue, but a global issue.
Thank you to @sharagrif for providing the info she has gathered from personal volunteer experience.